Ten days ago the Department of Education released its 2010 NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) civics test results. Commonly refered to as our nation’s report card, the data reveals that only 22% of eighth graders in the US can name a first amendment right. Among fourth graders, only 27% can name the purpose of the Constitution. Things do not become rosier as students progress. By twelfth grade, just 24% can define melting pot and argue whether it applies to our country. It astounds me that such a vital part of a public school education has virtually disappeared from the curriculum. A democracy cannot survive without educated citizens and for it to thrive requires an informed, involved and active citizenry. We can no longer ignore this issue. .
The Department of Education tested 27,000 students in fourth, eighth and twelfth grades. Topics covered included questions about the three branches of government, the Bill of rights, the Constitution etc., very general knowledge I say. When our children come of age and the country is in their hands they will be neither ready or able to handle the responsibility. This fact should make adults uneasy and demands swift action before it is too late. Our country will certainly be a different place if we fail to instill how important it is for each citizen to take part on both a national and community level.
Problems in our government system create gaps between groups of citizens. In the sixties it was a generation gap. This poor quality of education creates an all new kind of gap in our country, the citizen gap. It marks the difference between the acceptably educated and informed electorate we have today and the potentially clueless children who will grow up and claim this position in society tomorrow. This is a frightening fact to fathom. Who will vote?
Adults, especially parents, are responsible for teaching the fundamentals of civic duty until kindergarten. When kids enter kindergarten our schools should take over to build upon this foundation. . If you look at these test scores we can see that this is not happening. Reading, writing and math are certainly important, but civic knowledge is a vital ingredient of a well-balanced education. No child left behind is a great idea in theory, but not so great if important subjects such as civics fall to the wayside. Time for all of us to, use our voices and write our senators and congressman about this pressing and fundamental weakness in our education system. Bring back civics. The future of our country depends on it!